Jennifer Sunday, a Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the University of British Columbia, studies how marine and terrestrial organisms are responding to warming by shifting their distributions to cooler latitudes. First she considers a central and age-old question in ecology – What determines an animal’s global distribution in the first place? Dr. Sunday finds that temperature likely has a big role, but understanding the precise factors that limit species’ distributions is necessary in order to make useful predictions about when and where animals will shift their ranges.
By studying species’ tolerances to different temperatures and comparing them to their global distributions, Dr. Sunday has shown that marine animals have distributions more closely linked to their thermal physiology compared to terrestrial species. According to Sunday, reptiles, amphibians, and insects have the physiological capacity to live closer to the equator, but they are restricted by factors other than warm-season daytime temperatures.
Rowan Barrett is an Assistant Professor in the Redpath Museum at McGill University. He studies the ways in which organisms respond to environmental changes through adaptive evolution. His research looks at ways in which ecological sources of selection and the complexity of the genetic basis of adaptation interact.
“Our research combines a variety of approaches and study systems to help understand this complexity. We generate and test hypotheses about the predictability of evolution through a combination of ecological field transplant experiments, molecular biology, genomics, and computational biology. Our main study systems are threespine stickleback fish (Gasterosteus aculeatus), deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus), and anolis lizards (A. sagrei and A. carolinensis), but we sometimes work with other organisms too (such as bacteria or Heliconius butterflies). We aim to quantify the contributions of genome-wide genetic variation to fitness, and to understand the ecological and evolutionary forces that have shaped these patterns of variation between individuals, populations, and closely related species.”